It's a long way from a Friday night residence in your local Waterford restaurant to frightening the bejasus out of the likes of Samuel L. Jackson and Ellen DeGeneres on national television, but, talking to Irish magician Keith Barry, you get the distinct impression that he was somehow destined for a glittering career. He's got that sense of purpose and determination that simply won't take no -- or the two of clubs -- for an answer.
It all began with the gift of a book on his 14th birthday, the snappily titled Magic For The Complete Klutz. Barry has proven to be far from a klutz when it comes to his career, as a series of hit TV shows and sell-out shows on both sides of the Atlantic has proven.
Fresh from a run at Las Vegas, Barry is bringing his new show to the Olympia, after which he'll start work on a new 13-part TV series for National Geographic.
PAUL BYRNE: Before we start, is there any way you can kick off a petition among magicians to have David Blaine -- aka The Great Whydini -- stopped?
KEITH BARRY: I'll look into it. Then again, having someone like David Blaine around makes the rest of us look good. Him and Criss Angel actually help the good magicians, because people suddenly realise that when there's nothing but smoke and mirrors, it's all a little pointless . . .
There is a world of difference between, say, Paul Daniels and David Copperfield. Where do you see yourself fitting in?
For me, great magic has to be entertaining, first and foremost. Different magicians have different styles, obviously. It's like asking if you like Christina Aguilera or Britney Spears? Do you like Penn & Teller or Keith Barry?
My aim is to make people laugh first, and then be fooled by some good magic afterwards. When I was at college, my girlfriend -- who's now my wife -- was studying psychology, and that's when I got interested in incorporating that side of it. I started studying hypnosis as well. So, for me, I like to play with all the different aspects.
I'm always trying to figure out how a magic trick is done, and then I get frustrated.
Unlike the sleight of hand stuff, which you can practise at home forever and ever until the mirror is fooled, with the psychological stuff, there's no point in trying to perfect it at home. The only way to become an expert at it is to try again and again, and you'll fail many, many times, until eventually you become adept at it.
With this upcoming show, I create temporary amnesia in people, where they forget where they're from, they forget their names, they can't talk, they can't walk. And I'll be able to tell any girl sitting up in the stands at the Olympia not only the colour of her underwear but the brand too, just by looking at her, and reading her body language.
Do you always pick the girl with her legs uncrossed?
It doesn't matter whether her legs are open or closed, I'm getting in there and telling everyone what colour they are. It's all to do with reading body language.
When I look at a girl in the balcony, I'll see if she's wearing a tracksuit. Or a nicely ironed shirt, or a blouse that isn't nicely ironed. And straight away I can tell whether she's in a Dunnes Stores category or a high-end store category like Victoria's Secrets.
In March of 2007, you were in a nasty car accident that had you laid up for four months -- put it all into perspective, man?
The doctors were full of doom and gloom, telling me I'd probably walk with a limp for the rest of my life, and that I wouldn't walk without crutches for a year and a half.
I just wanted to get back to my career. I did an ITV thing in November of 2007, and then jumped on a plane and caught up with things in the States. It's been all go since then, so, no complaints.
Keith Barry plays the Olympia on January 11-18